Skip to Main Content

Reading to Write: Home


Synthesis is often one of the biggest challenges to writing the capstone. Synthesis is most apparent when reviewing the literature, but synthesizing evidence is necessary throughout the document as the writer establishes the topic and problem, illustrates the gap, justifies the method and design, and even when presenting results and conclusion.  

The Form and Style website includes several other pages with descriptions, discussions, and examples of synthesis; however, before a writer can begin synthesizing ideas and information, the writer must read. Whether it be for the initial stages of the development of the problem or writing up the conclusion and social change recommendations, doctoral writers are presenting and synthesizing information. Efficient reading, aimed at transferring those ideas into writing (what the Walden editors call “reading to write”), is the first step toward effective discussion of the literature and synthesis.

Overall Goals of Reading to Write

Making connections while reading is an important step to both reading comprehension and synthesis. Reading to write involves the following goals: 

  • understand the material and be able to explain it
  • paraphrase the ideas 
  • synthesize the information with other articles and authors on related subjects

Scholarly articles have a formula to them.  This general outline is the formula typical scholarly articles will follow.  This information may be helpful in the process and practice of reading to write:

  • Abstract: summary of the overall article
  • Introduction: background information and research questions (usually)
  • Theory: theoretical or conceptual framework
  • Methods: methods the author(s) used
  • Results: presentation of data
  • Conclusion: discussion and limitations

Conducting Reading for Writing

What Sources to Read

  • Focus on the subject and key ideas or seminal authors.
    • begin by having a clear objective of the type of information desired from the article
      • understanding a theory
      • understanding a method or design
      • results of a study that can be used in your study
    • choose a specific author as the focus, knowing they are a seminal author in the field—perhaps the founder of a theory or approach, perhaps one of the leading researchers
  • Consider how the information will be used.
    • background or general knowledge on a subject or theory for the literature review
    • statistics to include in the problem statement
    • evidence to support claims in a specific area
  • Examine the titles for signal words related to the answer to the question above and focus on the ones that appear to be relevant.
  • Review the abstract.
    • abstracts contain key information
    • look for a description of what is relevant: theory, method, design, results
    • determine whether reading the whole article would be helpful

Practices to Implement While Reading

  • Once the goal of the information and purpose for use are established, go directly to the area of the article that contains that information. In some cases, reading the entire article is beneficial and necessary (understanding a theory; noting how other authors have used a methods design in their study).
  • Skim to the section that contains the information needed.
    • Background or theory: concentrate on introduction and theory
    • Methods: concentrate on methods section and presentation of data
    • Findings: concentrate on the results and conclusion sections 

Note Taking and Writing While Reading

  • Take notes while writing.
    • the purpose of note taking while reading is to summarize; compare, and evaluate
    • write 1 or 2 sentences that are the main ideas 
    • find a way of keeping track of information that works
      • drafting an outline in MS Word
      • writing short paragraphs in MS Word
      • determining appropriate citation or information management software
      • printing hard copies and annotating/organizing by hand
  • Make connections while reading and note taking.
    • relate (compare, contrast, support, provide additional insight) to other articles on the same subject
    • make notes on this as well
  • Begin outlining in a way that is efficient for transitioning note taking into writing. Here are some ideas:
    • use the information/sentences from note taking in drafting an outline
    • write topic sentences or a thesis statement
    • use the comparison information as the body of a paragraph and write a topic sentence that fits

Summary of Steps of Reading to Write

  1. Focus on the details: what information is needed and where will it be used.
  2. Skim the article and pull out the information needed.
  3. Paraphrase and summarize key information in 1 or 2 sentences.
  4. Write another 1 or 2 sentences comparing it to other articles on the same topic (including citations).
  5. Fit these sentences/paragraphs into the document where needed.